Putting Financial Services Hiring Trends to Work in 2019

Resolved: to get a better grip on recruitment in 2019. But, how? Banks and insurance companies suffer from the same challenges as every other industry when it comes to a too-small labor pool and, therefore, stiff competition for the best candidates among those available. Or even potentially available. But that’s old news.

Or is it? According to the American Institute of CPAs, unemployment in the finance and accounting sector is even lower than the national average. That makes the pool even smaller at a time when the industry needs more new people than it has in years, thanks to an improving economy.

With 2019 already ticking away, it’s time to look forward. Studying the latest recruitment trends reveals insights HR professionals can use to grab the attention of most-desirable candidates and convince them that your company is their future, starting now.

Here’s what you need to know.

Trend #1: An attractive salary still has drawing power

Money may be just one factor in wooing preferred candidates, but the salary you offer does play a definitive role. Will salary trends help or hinder recruiting this year? Let’s see how your company stacks up. According to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance, these are seven most in-demand positions and median starting salaries:

  • Controller ($118,250)
  • Senior financial analyst ($82,500)
  • General accountant, manager ($92,000)
  • General accountant, senior ($77,750)
  • Payroll manager ($72,750)
  • Accountant, with 3–5 years’ experience ($72,250)
  • Internal auditor, 1–3 years’ experience ($70,250)

Salary continues to affect retention as well. If an otherwise happy employee discovers she can get a bigger raise by switching companies, she may be more motivated to look around. Or more open to poaching.

Trend #2: Broader, non-traditional finance and accounting skills

Changes in the overall business environment are driving needs for new hires with different sets of skills. We’re talking about technology and security, among other things. That means data wranglers are in high demand. Financial institutions and insurance companies lead the way when it comes to collecting vast amounts of customer data, but profiting from that data requires special skills in managing and analyzing big data.

Likewise, the increasingly complex regulatory environment now demands “compliance engineers” who can not only track and fulfill the requirements but apply forensic analysis and principles of customer service to reduce risks and ensure compliance solutions are customer-friendly.

And then there’s the security situation. Protecting big data from cyber-attacks and other breaches requires more than compliance, so financial services companies are now also looking to hire savvy tech security pros to beef up internal and customer confidence.

Trend #3: You have more competition than ever

While it certainly makes sense to recruit tech-forward team members with expertise beyond traditional financial services skill sets, there’s a serious problem. You’ll have to compete with a wide spectrum of other companies, not just those in your own industry. Big data managers and cyber security experts, especially, are badly needed by virtually every business. Standing out from the competition will be harder than ever, because you’ll have to sell your industry as well as your firm.

Even within the industry, there is broader competition in the form of fintech companies and startups. Big organizations that may be viewed by prospective candidates as staid and bureaucratic could lose out to small entities seen as more agile, flexible, and certainly cutting edge. To compete, companies will have to emphasize their own opportunities to learn and grow.

The workplace itself is also a competitive factor in 2019. Even traditionally “buttoned-down” financial institutions and insurance companies are showing their softer side, with seismic cultural shifts that include casual attire, flexible scheduling, personalized benefits, and so on. (And they’re finding that a more relaxed-yet-professional atmosphere appeals more to customers as well as employees.)

Trend #4: The “gig” economy could be your salvation

With highly-qualified full time candidates in such short supply, HR managers are turning to project-specific hires. Consultants have been part of the business scene for years, but more and more individuals are deciding they’d rather take on a series of freelance jobs rather than tie themselves down to a “job.” And more and more retirement-age men and women would rather keep working, though not necessarily full time.

That makes it easy to bring on one person to handle a project, or assemble an entire team. This can be an efficient, costs-effective solution when the company has a special need, whether that’s something major such as negotiating or overseeing a merger, or something less intense such as a new marketing push. Temporary employees can fill all sorts of gaps, adding manpower or bringing new expertise, without incurring costs for benefits.

Trend #5: AI may be your new BFF

For frustrated HR managers under pressure to find and land excellent people, the best new hire of 2019 may be artificial intelligence. AI is popping up in more places and proving that even the most basic forms of artificial intelligence can be invaluable. Savvy human resources pros are starting to add AI to their teams. Chatbots can function just as they do in any other sales environment, answering simple questions, directing (or connecting) prospective candidates and website visitors to the information they need, etc.

Automating these tasks frees up humans in Human Resources to focus on establishing personal relationships with prospects. AI can also assist with search and candidate review processes, ultimately helping to reduce turnover.

Beyond the HR department, artificial intelligence can help your company automate services, collect and analyze data. Of course, you’ll need specialized new hires to manage that and every other aspect of the company’s ongoing digital transformation.

Trend #6: Proving your worth to candidates

It’s easy to become so consumed with the effort to locate and lure top talent that we forget employees are also consumers. People now expect their work and working environment to deliver an exceptional experience, just as they expect retailers and service providers to do that.

Both industry and company brand reputation matter very much to candidates, especially the folks you want most. Unfortunately, at least in the eyes of some prospective employees, banking has not regained the luster lost during the Great Recession. As hiring manager, you’ll have to find creative, genuine ways to show prospects they can proudly join your team.

Regardless of the need to overcome negative impressions, many banks and insurance companies are overtly marketing their brand as part of their recruitment process. Attributes such as corporate dedication to environmental sustainability, community support, and other values that reach beyond the workplace resonate particularly well with millennials. If your organization fosters creativity, sets the pace as an innovator, or promotes “professional individualism” in other ways, that could be pivotal to candidates.


Knowing the top trends in financial services recruiting won’t help if you don’t take action. Aging Baby Boomer employees will continue to retire in record numbers, and young generations entering the workforce – or looking to move up – want a different kind of work experience. The companies that attract the best of the best in 2019 will be those that know who they need and are able to sell their business as the best place to be.